A large part of our health and wellbeing can be attributed to our diet. Think of our bodies as fancy cars; they need the proper fuel and just the right amount of it to run correctly. In terms of nutrition, this means eating enough calories to maintain our weight and consuming a variety of foods from the five main food groups (reference article that talks about the Eat Well guide). Aim to make your plate as colourful as possible with fruits and veggies to get a range of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and choose lean sources of protein, slow-release carbs, and healthy fats at every meal. To work out portion sizes, there’s no better tool than your hand; a fist of protein, a cupped palm of carbs and a thumb of fats is what you should be aiming for at mealtimes.
Get familiar with reading nutrition labels on the back of packets. You don’t have to be an expert; there’s a few key things to check for. If syrup, sugar or any iteration of this is in the top three ingredients listed, put the product back on the shelf. Similarly, use the traffic light system; if there’s lots of nutrients in red (particularly salt, sugar and saturated fat), avoid this food.
It’s easier to control what you eat when you’re at home; however, when you’re out and about there’s things you can do to get the nutrition your body deserves. Carry snacks around with you; for example, a small portion of nuts and seeds, or a protein bar; to grab when hunger strikes (link to my new article on eating healthy on the go). Going out with your friends, family or work? Look at the menu ahead of time so you can identify healthier choices (again; base meals around lean sources of protein, plus veggies or salad). Don’t be afraid to ask the waiter if you can swap to healthier alternatives; for example, salad in place of fries; and order any salad dressings or sauces to come on the side. If you fancy having dessert, split it between you and another person.
Getting enough exercise complements healthy eating in our quest to look and feel good. Easier said than done; many of us have full-time, desk-based jobs that put limitations on our sweat sessions! Upping your daily step count can make a huge difference; you don’t necessarily need to track this on a pedometer or fitbit; simply get off the bus or tube one stop earlier and walk to and from work. Alternatively, why not get an afternoon stroll in come lunchtime? Many cities also now have a plethora of gyms that cater to busy working professionals; join a class during your lunch break or, if you prefer, sneak in a session in the morning before work. Indeed, studies have shown early morning exercise is fantastic at improving sleep quality (see below) by regulating our circadian rhythm (link to my new article on chrono nutrition).
Getting adequate shut-eye is also super important to our physical and mental health (link to sleep article). Getting better sleep can simply be a case of replacing your pillow every 3-36 months (depending on the type of pillow) or getting a weighted blanket that’s designed to ease anxiety. Taking care of your nutrition and activity levels is also important for sleep, so take note of the above tips!
Becoming healthy and adopting healthy habits doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, as the above hacks show. However, it does takes time and patience. The more frequently you practice and implement the above tips, the more they will naturally become a part of your lifestyle and you’ll notice the benefits of eating, moving and sleeping well.